CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prosecutors' Catch 22, Forensic Science 101

Prosecutors in New Mexico say they face a Catch-22 situation because of delays in receiving DNA results from the state crime lab.  As prosecutors in New Mexico describe it--if they wait for the state crime lab to analyze DNA or other evidence before charging someone, they risk leaving someone who might be guilty on the street to commit other crimes.  But, if they file charges and go to trial without lab evidence, a guilty person might be acquitted or an innocent person might be convicted.

"Effectively, we can't get DNA analysis. We're not exaggerating the problem...It has been a nightmare," District Attorney Scot Key of Alamogordo.  In major cases, evidence is sent to private labs, but testing in a single cases easily can exceed $5,000. The crime lab has been backlogged for a decade, and now, each of the state's 19 forensic technicians would have to work 485 hours each just to handle what's backed up.  Sounds like more effective and efficient processes need to be put in place for collecting and processing evidence and more qualified forensic scientists are needed.

On the other hand, as eager as prosecutors may be to test DNA at the outset of the investigation, post-conviction DNA testing is often another story. [Michele Berry]

Evidence, Law Enforcement, Technology | Permalink

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